Kevin Ellis time with Sporting Kansas City might be running short.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Ellis, an Oak Park High School graduate and the second homegrown player in club history, knows it.
I know what is expected and I understand what comes with preseason, he said. I want to take the next step and prove myself prove that I belong with this team. Ive been here two years and I realize that last year wasnt the best year for me. I feel like this is maybe my last chance to prove something.
Coach Peter Vermes hasnt been shy about saying the same thing.
He needs to make a bigger push than he has, and thats what Im hoping to see starting now, Vermes said. He needs to make a jump. Its time. Hes been around.
Nobody doubts Ellis talent, but with Sporting KC preparing for a hectic season, which includes defending the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League play in addition to the MLS regular season, there is precious little roster space for developmental projects.
Ellis, who is primarily a right back, has had two years with Sporting KC. If he wants to stick around for a third season, its make-or-break time.
It is for quite a few guys, Vermes said. At some point, when are you going to make the potential become reality?
Ellis freely acknowledges that he didnt handle his first true offseason entering the 2012 campaign well.
Coming straight from a college season my first year, I was fit and ready to play, Ellis said. But I ended up taking too much time off (last year) and tried to get it all back too quick.
The result was an uneven 2012 season. Ellis struggled with injuries part of the time, but he also struggled to adapt his game to the rigors of Vermes demanding system until the final few months.
The last third of the year last year was good for him, but I dont think the first two-thirds were good enough, Vermes said. The last third was a major improvement, but now its about what he does in this preseason and leading into the season. It cant take that long. Hes got to start at a much higher level from the very get-go. I dont want to see a dip. I want to see a continued rise.
Ellis understands. He was more dedicated to staying in shape during the most recent offseason.
Its mental more than anything, Ellis said. I learned from my mistakes last offseason. I didnt take the right approach. It was my first offseason and I didnt understand what it would be like. I learned a lot from that and Ive come back more prepared and physically ready to take on the responsibilities of my role.
Ellis missed the start of training with a liver infection, but hes back to full strength as Sporting KC enters the second phase of camp in Orlando, Fla., and hopes to impress.
I missed a lot in terms of playing with the guys, but I know the system and know they expect, so that made it easier to jump in in that way, Ellis said.
When Michael Harrington was traded to Portland during the offseason, it created a hole as Chance Myers backup at right back. Its Ellis job to win, but it wont be given to him.
Theres no doubt that theres a vacancy in that area of the field, Vermes said. But the competition is getting tougher and tougher and its all over the park. Everyone is going to have to be on top of their game every single day, competing like crazy.
Its up to Ellis to show hes ready to make the leap into contention for a senior roster spot.
Theres no doubt its going to be tough to make the roster, Ellis said. We have phenomenal guys that came in, which is a testament to our coaching staff and ownership. Its not my decision whether Im going to be here or not, but Im confident that I have what it takes to be here.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer